Micro/nanomechanical characterization of the bulk Al2O3–TiC and Ni–Zn ferrite, and thin films of Co–Zr–Ta and Al2O3 used in magnetic recording heads have been carried out. Hardness, elastic modulus and scratch resistance of these materials were measured by nanoindentation and microscratching using a nanoindenter. Fracture toughness was measured by indentation using cube corner and Vickers indenters. Friction and wear properties for these materials were measured using an accelerated ball-on-flat tribometer. Al2O3–TiC shows the highest hardness, elastic modulus and scratch resistance as well as the lowest wear damage, followed by the Ni–Zn ferrite, Al2O3 films, and Co–Zr–Ta film. The Co–Zr–Ta film exhibits the highest fracture toughness, followed by the Al2O3–TiC, Al2O3 films and Ni–Zn ferrite. There exists a good correlation between mechanical properties and wear damage. Higher mechanical properties result in less wear damage. In general, the bulk Al2O3–TiC and Ni–Zn ferrite show lower damage than the Co–Zr–Ta and Al2O3 films. For the thin films studied, the Al2O3 films show higher mechanical properties and less scratch and wear damage.
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